Boys with autism are spending significantly more time playing video games than their typically developing peers and are at higher risk for gaming to be problematic or addictive, researchers say.
On a daily basis, boys with autism are spending more than two hours playing video games. That’s nearly twice the playing time clocked by their typically developing peers, according to a study published online Monday in the journal Pediatrics.
Researchers surveyed the parents of boys ages 8 to 18 — 56 with autism, 44 with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and 41 with no diagnosis — about their children’s gaming habits.
Problematic or addictive video game use was much more prevalent among those with autism and ADHD, the study found. In boys with autism, this propensity toward problematic play was associated with a preference toward role-playing games.
“These results suggest that children with ASD and those with ADHD may be at particularly high risk for significant problems related to video game play, including excessive and problematic video game use,” wrote study authors Micah Mazurek and Christopher Engelhardt, both of the University of Missouri, in their findings. “Attention problems, in particular, are associated with problematic video game play for children with ASD and ADHD, and role-playing games appear to be related to problematic game use particularly among children with ASD.”
Further study is needed to assess the long-term impact of screen-based media like video games on those with autism, the researchers said. In the meantime, they indicated that clinicians need to be more aware of the potential for problematic game use among those with autism and ADHD.
Previous research — also conducted by Mazurek — found that boys with autism who played role-playing video games displayed more oppositional behaviors like arguing. But it was unclear whether the games were sparking the problems or if children with behavior troubles were drawn to the genre.